Friday, April 15, 2011

Early Critical Greek New Testaments

A look backward at the last 200 years or so of NT Textual Criticism is instructive.

Stephanus (Estienne) :  First with Numbered verses...

'The Infancy' (1450-1600)

1518 - First (?) Printed Bible - Aldus Manutius (Venice)

In what Edward Miller called 'The Infancy', he listed the first printed Greek New Testaments, which helped to spark and feed the original Reformation (A Guide to TC of NT, p.7 fwd):

The Fall of Constantinople (1453) seems to have caused many Greek scribes and manuscripts to have poured into Western Europe.

The first printed texts became the basis of many Reformation Bible translations:
The Complutensian Polyglott (Cardinal Ximenes, 1520),
1518 Polyglott: (multiple language edition)

Erasmus' Greek/Latin (1515-1535),
A Younger Erasmus

was quickly followed by those of
Robert Stephen (1546-1551) adding our modern verse-numbers,

Stephen (Esteinne)
Stephen:  Special printing font with ligatures


Theodore Beza (1565-1598) with some noted readings from D.

A Young Theodore Beza
Beza's text with extensive notes

'The Childhood' (1600-1800)

the Elzevirs (1624-1633) then followed,

Softcore porn inserts...

Brian Walton (1657) published a Polyglott, with collations from Bishop Ussher;
John Fell (1675) added collations from the ancient Memphitic and Gothic versions.

The text of Stephen was adopted by
John Mill
(1707), and this was generally taken in England as the standard or "Textus Receptus" (TR) for many years. To the TR, Mill began the first thorough effort at collation by adding a remarkable 30,000 readings to his apparatus and introduction.
Toinard (1707), Roman Catholic, first proposed using only the 2 oldest (Vatican) MSS + Latin.
Richard Bentley:  Too gay to actually complete project

Richard Bentley (1716) planned a comparison of the most ancient Greek and Latin texts (i.e., Codex A, B and D), assisted by John Walker (Trinity College), but never finished is idea:  later a version was published by Woide.
Mace (1729) published an edited NT. This was re-edited by Knapp (1797)
Bengel (1734) began the first attempt at a systematic textual criticism, with the grouping of MSS into families, and grading readings with a Greek letter (α, β, γ, δ, ε).
Bengel: Grumpy Old Men 2

Wetstein (1751-1752) labeled the Uncials (A-O) and Cursives (1-112). He did extensive collations of MSS, versions and Early Christian writers (ECW). Bowyer (1763) republished Wetstein.
Harwood (1776), a Presbyterian Unitarian, made the first early critical 'W/H' style text.
Matthaei (1786) in Moscow also collated and published new MSS from Mt. Athos, while Alter worked in Vienna and Birch laboured in Italy, Germany, Spain, with Adler's help.
Geddes (1792) an ex-Catholic Priest & Unitarian activist also attempted a critical translation.
Griesbach (1775-1805) following Semler, divided MSS into 3 text-types, Western Alexandrian, Byzantine, proposing each was a recension (product of a formal revision), and giving each a 'vote'. He also provided citations of Origen independently of Wetstein in his Symbolae Criticae. Griesbach was republished by Whittaker (1823, 2nd ed) and Schulz (1827, 3rd ed).

J.J. Griesbach:  Hamburger Diet

Scholz (1830-36) continued Griesbach's work, collating another 616 cursives, but reduced the text-types to two, grouping Western and Alexandrian, with later assent from Scrivener.

This early period seems to have been summed up well by Samuel Davidson (c. 1848):
"We are thankful to the collators of MSS for their great labour. But it may be doubted whether they be often competent to make the best critical text out of existing materials. ... We should rather see the collator and the editor of the text dissociated. We should like to have one person for each department." (quoted by Tregelles, Printed Text p. 172).
It is remarkable, if not notorious, that the first person to propose using only the oldest Uncial manuscripts for 'correcting' the Reformation Bible text was a Roman Catholic priest, Toinard.
This was about 150 years after the RC Council of Trent had already established both the canon and text of the NT.
The next two texts to seriously depart from the Traditional text were those of Harwood and Gedes, both Unitarian radicals seeking to alter the mainstream doctrines of Christianity.

This idea of rejecting the standard common text for that of two obscure 4th century Uncials (Alexandrinus and Vaticanus) was not based on any scientific analysis or credible methodology. The majority of manuscripts (MSS) had not yet been discovered, let alone collated. No theory of 'text-types', genealogy or early 'recensions' had been invented.

The only reason for preferring two old manuscripts from the Vatican was the vague notion that older manuscripts might be more pure copies, or closer to the original copies. But since even the oldest MSS were 300 years away from the originals, and were artificially edited church texts compiled from multiple sources after generations of copying, there could be no credible claim that they were relatively 'pure' without claiming that the majority of manuscripts had been corrupted after that period.

How else could 4th and 5th century manuscripts be better, unless the bulk of later manuscripts had been corrupted since that time? But this would require either:

1. That the later manuscripts had descended from a later revision, for which there was no historical evidence. Hort later proposed a 'Lucian Recension' as the common ancestor to all the later copies, but this would have had to have taken place prior to Jerome (c. 390 A.D.). Lucian lived c. 240-312 A.D. - or else,

2. That the later manuscripts were corrupted from a long process of gradual accumulation of error or editing, but this contradicted the fact that the standard common text of these manuscripts clearly existed in the 4th century! The same basic text is found in the Old Latin, the early versions and quotations of the early Christian writers, and Jerome's Vulgate (c. 390 A.D.).
Since both of these notions are shown false by the existence of earlier copies of the traditional (common) text, such as Codex Alexandrinus and the Latin manuscripts etc., the only sensible conclusion is that there were competing text-types in the 4th century. If so, the preference for the two 4th century Uncials is dubious.

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